Two dusky hawks, the seasoned Rufus and his protégé Pollux, and the ghost of another, swoop gracefully across the pristine grass-courts of the All England Club in Wimbledon, carefully patrolling the London skies from unwelcome trespassers.
They have been meticulous as ever in performing their duties as they join thousands of other tennis romantics hoping the Roger Federer fairytale continues this season.
The same idealist who was thoroughly overjoyed when Rafael Nadal completed La Decima at Roland Garros in June, now bullishly hopes Federer wins his eight Wimbledon this July.
The sense of anticipation is at fever pitch as we await to see in what new way the Swiss legend is going to dazzle us with. It's what David Foster Wallace aptly referred to as ‘Federer moments’ before adding, "when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re OK."
Federer, in the last 15 years, has elevated tennis to kinetic poetry rather than a mere corporeal affair. At his best, he is the perfect union of effortless grace and unmatched accuracy. It’s as if he’s choreographing a sequence to a Stravinsky concert playing in his head.
He’s a perfectionist with a streamlined economy of motion, deft footwork, a supreme volley technique and a versatile forehand. He can hit a delectable forehand on the run, inside out, with an open, neutral or closed stance whether it is a high ball or low ball on grass court, hard or clay.
He habitually bends space and time and defies gravity to get to seemingly inaccessible drop shots. For the 18-time Grand Slam winner, the apple apparently never fell on Newton.
With the possibility of a Federer-Nadal final this Wimbledon, the euphoria that courses through the bones of said romantic is palpably uncontrollable.
Though the Swiss maestro won his first Wimbledon — and Grand Slam — singles title in 2003, tennis romantics saw the beginning of a Golden Age in 2005 when a 19-year-old Spaniard, visibly partial to sleeveless shirts, capris and colourful headbands, challenged Federer’s supremacy by defeating him in the French Open semi-final.
On Nadal’s arrival, Federer began to lift his game to an unprecedented level of performance as we witnessed the beginning of a glorious rivalry.
It was a rivalry which enriched our beloved game and soon, you were either on Team Rafa or Team FedEx.
On a glorious Sunday in July 2008, it reached its zenith in the Wimbledon final. Tennis fans all over the world were on pins and needles in anticipation of this much-hyped contest. Though Nadal had beaten Federer at Roland Garros four straight times, he was now treading on Federer’s holy domain.
And what a sublime treat it was to witness the two battle it out for nearly five hours in a five-setter. Nadal prevailed and FedEx fans wept but the tennis romantic was overwhelmed with emotion at witnessing what was arguably the greatest match in tennis history.
In an era where everything is puffed up as ‘the ultimate contest’, the 2008 Wimbledon final transcended the hype.
However, due to various injuries and the resurgence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray since 2011, Fedal Grand Slam finals became a scarce contest. Though everyone cherished Djokovic’s aggressive baseline play and Murray’s defensive style, the optimistic tennis romantic continued to dream of a renewed Federer-Nadal rivalry.
In January this year, the tennis Gods affirmed their will as Federer and Nadal turned back the years storming into the final of Australian Open. In a teetering five-set match, Federer triumphed and it offered hope for future contests.
But Federer took a two-month hiatus skipping the clay-court season in an effort to focus on grass court events and prolong his career.
Although everyone would have loved to see him at Roland Garros this year, it's unlikely anyone could have stopped Nadal from winning his 10th French Open title.
On his return, Federer’s loss to Tommy Haas in the second round of the Stuttgart Open might have raised some eyebrows ahead of Wimbledon but he sewed the whispering mouths shut winning a record ninth Halle Open title without dropping a set.
Though he’s nearly 36, his victory at Australian Open proved his skill, touch and beauty transcends the physical limitations of his fellow mortals. His artistry lies in the way he can transform the poise of a ballerina into a weapon on the tennis court.
If Federer has to surpass Murray, Djokovic or Nadal to win his eighth Wimbledon, he must not let the weight of history or the storied rivalry deluge him. As Wallace writes in his seminal novel, Infinite Jest, “The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. Always and only the self out there, on court, to be met, fought, brought to the table to hammer out terms. The competing boy on the net’s other side: he is not the foe: he is more the partner in the dance.”
As Federer and Nadal get set to begin another dance, at the end of the day, all the tennis romantic can do is dream.
Updated Date: Jul 02, 2017 10:13 AM